The Great Resignation looks set to continue, with almost a third of UK workers considering a job change in 2022. But what’s really driving this change?
Some say the trend is driven by a psychological shift, with employers failing to tempt anxious staff back to industries that have treated them as dispensable. Others point out that quitting is usually a sign of optimism. Yet many in the UK are still struggling financially in the wake of the pandemic, and now also face a historic rise in fuel costs.
In reality, employees’ reasons for quitting or leaving the workforce altogether are varied. The top reasons cited in studies are still inadequate childcare and Covid health concerns, recently exacerbated by Omicron. And while even knowledge workers are burning out and quitting, many employees quit in search of better opportunities or higher pay.
It’s telling that low-paying industries like healthcare, leisure and hospitality, and retail are among the most affected. With widespread labour shortages, there are plenty of better opportunities to choose from for those who are struggling to make ends meet—and despite recent wage rises, many in those industries still are.
There’s also a gender imbalance here. Many parents have left the workforce during Covid to homeschool their children, and in most cases, it’s been mothers, not fathers, who have sacrificed their jobs—not because dad is a male chauvinist or because mum wants to be a housewife, but because of the gender pay gap. With men typically earning more than women for the same work, if one partner is going to give up their salary, it’s going to be the one who’s paid less.
It’s tempting to read the Great Resignation as a sign that workers are feeling more empowered, but the grim reality may be that many can’t afford to keep their current jobs.